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Creative Politics

Taxes and Public Goods in a Federal System

Glenn Beamer

Publication Year: 1999

State legislators are constantly making tradeoffs between changing taxes and providing public services. Not only must they reconcile their own policy preferences with the preferences of their constituents, but they must consider the impact of actions taken by both the federal government and competing states. Glenn Beamer uses a series of in-depth case studies in eleven states to show how legislators made decisions dealing with taxation, economic development, education financing, and Medicaid. Beamer identifies six factors that influence legislators' decisions: accountability, dependability, equity, obscurability, and horizontal and vertical transferability. Within the context created by citizen demands, intergovernmental politics, policy histories, court interventions, and state constitutions, this study analyzes how legislators employ these principles to develop and enact policies. In addition to modeling state politics within the context of federalism, Creative Politics, reflecting the author's extensive interviews with legislators, is novel in its focus on politicians' views about public services, the strategies to finance them, and efforts to develop and maintain political support for them. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, economics, and public administration, and, more specifically, of federalism, state politics and policy, and legislative decision-making. Glenn Beamer is Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research, University of California, Berkeley, and Assistant Professor of Government, University of Virginia.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Many people have contributed to this book, and I am grateful to all of them. I thank the scores of state legislators who freely gave their time and provided the thoughtful insights that form the basis for this book. Because of our initial agreement, they will remain anonymous, but my debt to them is great, and many of them went far beyond the call of civic duty to assist me.

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1. Federalism as Creative Politics

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pp. 1-10

This illustration, although humorous, illustrates quite a bit about the spirit of federal politics. The legislator’s comments reveal the state government’s need, apparently dire, for obscure revenue sources. The recycling program itself indicates legislators’ concerns about providing a public good such as a cleaner environment. The comments about Michigan indicate an awareness of policy diffusion among states. The comments about the connections between recycling and welfare and jobs programs reveal elected ...

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2. Federalism, Public Goods, and Taxes

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pp. 11-27

One element of modern representation consists of representatives responding to their constituents’ preferences for goods and services (Jewell 1982; Pitkin 1967). Responding to constituents’ preferences is at best an uncertain undertaking. Citizens may not communicate their preferences well. There may be competing preferences from citizens within a legislative district. And citizens may be uncertain about their preferences or hold ...

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3. Representatives’ Positions and Collective Decisions

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pp. 28-45

In this chapter, I connect the parameters of federalism, public goods, and taxes to state representatives’ individual issue positions and state legislatures’ collective decisions. Representatives rely on a fairly stable set of guiding principles when developing positions about intergovernmental policies. The emphasis given to different principles varies over time, across states, and from issue to issue, but the principles themselves remain stable.

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4. Read Our Lips, No New (Income) Taxes

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pp. 46-70

The federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 offered state governments an incentive to utilize personal income taxes and to decrease their reliance on sales taxes. By maintaining a deduction for state and local income and property taxes and eliminating the deduction for sales taxes, Congress sustained a subsidy of a particular subnational tax while eliminating another. Since 1986, however, only Connecticut has adopted a personal income tax, and ...

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5. Tax and Spend or Spending Taxes— Economic Development in the States

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pp. 71-94

Although legislators differ on issues pertaining to the means by which to finance government, they are united in their pursuit of enlarging tax bases via economic development. Since the 1970s, state officials have substantially increased their attention to economic development (Eisinger 1988; Brace 1993; Beyle 1983). Thirty of the legislators in this study (23 percent) either described themselves as specializing in economic development or ...

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6. Education Financing: How Many Types of Equity?

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pp. 95-122

This lament by a frustrated Vermont representative offers an entry point into yet another avenue of politics created in a federal system. In financing education, tensions arise among state governments, localities, and citizens. On the one hand, localities want states to shoulder greater shares of financial responsibility and alleviate discrepancies in revenue capacities among localities.

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7. Health Care—Afflicted Budgets

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pp. 123-143

While Congress and the Clinton administration spent much of 1994 debating and ultimately failing to enact health-care reform, several state legislatures succeeded in enacting health-care reforms. In other states, the results were similar to those at the federal level—the legislature failed to effect changes despite considerable efforts (Pear 1994a). I examine health-care reform efforts in 1994–95 in Oregon, Vermont, Tennessee, Florida, ...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 144-155

Federalism creates new politics. In addition to structural and institutional relationships, models of intergovernmental relations and subnational politics should consider the political spillover through which politics shifts from one level of government to another. Investigations and models of subnational politics should consider the provision of public goods in federal systems and how the unique nature of public goods affects ...

Appendix A: Methodology

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pp. 157-161


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pp. 163-167


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pp. 169-174


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pp. 175-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026784
E-ISBN-10: 047202678X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472087303
Print-ISBN-10: 0472087304

Page Count: 292
Illustrations: 2 drawings and 21 tables
Publication Year: 1999